We just completed a Douro River Cruise package with AMAWaterways. One of two scheduled trips to celebrate our 50th Wedding Anniversary this year. The package included three nights in Madrid pre cruise and three nights in Lisbon post cruise. This is the third river cruise we have taken and the best thus far.
We departed Tucson on Friday, May 9, 2014 arriving in Madrid Saturday morning Ma;y 10, 2014. The pre arranged AMAWaterways representative was at the airport promptly to transport us to the Westin Palace Hotel. We were able to check in immediately without wating as many times occurs in European hotels. Our room was delightful and previously reviewed.
Our three night two day stay included a city tour and one day to Toledo. We also took advantage of a supplemental evening tour, Madrid by Night, including four Tappas locations ending at the market. What a wonderful experience. Some very good wine and Tappas offerings and at 77 Euros, a reasonably priced dinner.
The third morning we set out in route to Vila Nova de Gaia to board the AMAVida for our seven night trip. The AMAVida was first launched last year and was, without a doubt, the nicest accomnmodations of our river cruise experiences. The cabin was spacious by river cruise comparisons. We were in a Category A cabin on the top deck. There was ample storage space, more than I could fill. A full hanging closet, multiple cupboards and shelves. The beds were configured to one king with two night stands. There were two chairs with a small table between and huge flat screen TV mounted on the wall. There was a dressing table/desk with lots of storage. The best part was multiple plugs. Previous river cruise cabins have only had one plug in the entire cabin. Finally, a small balcony just large enough to accommodate two chairs and small table. The bath was extremely well designed maximizing the use of space. Shower excellent.
Our Cruise Director was Cristina Garcao who was phenomenal. From Lisbon and most informative. She also manned the hospitality desks at both hotel locations. Always gracious and helpful. The hotel staff was wonderful and our cabin kept spotless on each day. Front desk staff perfect and a "shout out" to Annabel.
Breakfast and lunch were buffet preesentations with additional limited menu items. There was an omelette station for breakfast and eggs Benedict available from the menu. Luncheon offerings were all tasty in addition to menu options of hamburgers, salmon fillet every day. Dinners were true masterpieces with vegetarian, meat, fowl and seafood choices every night. I did not experience a bad, or even mediocre meal. Two evenings we were excorted off the boat for special dinners. The first at a winery, Quinta da Avessada perched on top of a hill with panoramic views and second at a former Monastery, Monastery of Alpendurada. Delightful.
Tours throughout the trip were well planned and executed. All the contract guides were informed and interesting and all spoke exceptional English. Hats off to Paul who we chose on many days. The courtry\side is spectacular, wine wonderful and port (Tawny Port my personal favorite) better.
Evening entertainment was structured around local talent, one night including the typical guitar music and a Fado presentation.
The boat overnighted in Porto. We disembarded to continue our journey to Lisbon with a stop in Fatima. Have to say we enjoyed one of the best Pizza's we have ever had in a small restaurant there. Didn't know Pizza was supposed to taste that good.
Overall, this was the best river cruise we've had the pleasure to enjoy. AMAWaterways does an exceptional job with no stone left unturned. Yesterday was the coup de grace with a delivery of a small flower arrangement from the President thanking me for my review and, again, congradulating us on our Anniversary. A class company all the way!!